It has been revealed that the Treasury revoked a large portion of the money which remained and was due to be given to schools instead of going towards the process of transforming them into academies, after plans which would require all state schools to become academies were abandoned.
On a superficial level, we may see this as a classic betrayal by the government; politicians do not mean what they say, and they do not say what they mean. There is nothing ambiguous about this record from parliament, in which the Government is said to have “over £500m available”, for the process of converting schools into academies. Of this significant sum, £384m has been reabsorbed by the Treasury, reports today revealed.
But we can go further than that. It is astounding to see the sheer disregard for the actual state of the education system - the disregard which is all too often emerges in the public revelations of deception and deceit which at times seem increasingly common - upon which the monumental mistakes in policy-making that are now synonymous with education in the UK are built.
Speaking on academies, specifically after the Government's abandonment of the legislation which would force all schools to become academies by 2020, Education Secretary Justine Greening said:
“Our ambition remains that all schools should benefit from the freedom and autonomy that academy status brings. Our focus, however, is on building capacity in the system and encouraging schools to convert voluntarily.”I ask the following: What about the “freedom and autonomy” that comes with having enough money? What about the “status” of being able to hire the best teachers for a school? Or even enough teachers? What about our sports equipment - our musical instruments? Where is your “focus”? How can there be any true “freedom” when so many of the basic prerequisites of a functioning education system are either not met or are being closed up on with alarming speed?
It is not a new thing to suggest that ‘politicians live in a different world’, but it is suggested in their very remarks, sans analysis. When Greening talks of “ambition”, she does not realise that to many people, the word has some meaning. A meaning for which many will fight. It is lost on her and many others, that for some, ambition stretches beyond a latent ambition to swindle the public - to avoid answering difficult questions, in a feeble ploy to prevent the loss of face.
Greening’s remarks are betrayed by Greening’s actions, as is Greening’s intent - we now begin our return to the policy at hand: the revocation of the promised funds, once to be poured by the obscenely rich into the promised lands of playgrounds and classrooms across the country. The act of allowing such a large sum of money to be re-taken by the Treasury contradicts a large body of the Government’s rhetoric on improving education in the UK.
If their “focus” truly is on “building capacity”, then they have strayed profoundly from having such a focus, as a lack of funds, as exacerbated by the retraction of funding (in this case and others), actively hinders the maintenance of what restricted capacity schools currently have. Nothing Theresa May’s Government has done so far will further that aim. As perplexingly difficult to grasp as it may seem, one does not require to have undertaken several decades of obsessive study in the field of economics as it pertains to education to understand that less money leads to a smaller or a very strained capacity. Nor does one need to specialize in the study of demographics to get their head around the fact that school places are getting tighter, as populations (all around the world) grow.
But then again, it doesn’t seem one needs an understanding of much at all to become Education Secretary.
DISCLAIMER: This is a critical article, and so is comprised of the personal opinions of the author.